250 years of Circus through an archive of reference

The Foundation guards one of the world’s largest collections of circus items, in which tens of thousands of items illustrate the 250 years of history of the circus: engravings, costumes, posters, photographs, stamps, postcards, artists’ materials, autographs, books, programes, porcelain, sculptures, and much more.

The most notable treasures of the collection include the world’s largest miniature circus (a scale model of the great German Gleich circus), the archive of large-format 20th-century posters of the lithographer Fernández-Ardavín, the largest stamp collection of circus themes, three hundred antique engravings, a library with over 4,000 titles, the costumes of famous performers, the press file of Ramon Cardona and the complete archives of renowned photographers like Álvaro Villar, Josep Vinyes or Alberto Oller.

The world’s largest miniature circus
The Dutch engineer Ben van Herwerden devoted 40 years of his life to materialising the gigantic German Gleich circus (1924-1937), which visited Barcelona in 1929, by constructing a faithful 1:25 scale model, which was acquired by the Foundation in 2015. It shows the functioning of a large travelling circus of the early 20thcentury: 420 characters, 270 animals, 170 vehicles, all arranged over a space of 50 square metres, making it today the world’s largest circus model.

Circus philately
The Foundation’s stamp archive is today considered the world’s largest philatelic collection of circus themes: more than 900 stamps originating from 115 countries. Alongside generic stamps with various circus scenes there are others of paintings dedicated to the circus by illustrious artists (Picasso, Chéret, Rouault or Lautrec), those of views of stable circuses (Nikulin of Moscow, Ulan Bator, Erevan, Pyongyang, Astana or Dushanbe) or those of famous performers.

The photographic collections
The Foundation preserves the complete archives of three great photographers: Josep Vinyes i Sabatés (1904-1995), Alberto Oller Garriga (1923-2014) and Álvaro Castellano “Villar” (1937), the official photographer of the old Teatro Circo Price of Madrid. These three collections total more than 40,000 negatives dated between 1940 and 1970. Selections of around a hundred pictures by each one were the object of the three publications of the collection “FotoCirco” published by the Foundation.

The whiteface clown costumes
Alongside the costumes of famous performers like the trapeze artist Miss Mara, the juggler Pepito Álvarez, the clown Ramper or the animal trainers Mary Chipperfield or Paulina Schumann, the clothing section features the series of 27 whiteface clown costumes created by the historic Parisian showbusinesshaute couturefirm Maison Vicaire. These are true jewels, embroidered between 1950 and 1980 and used by leading international whiteface artists.

19th-century French porcelain
In the first quarter of the 19thcentury the circus was especially in vogue in Paris thanks to the equestrian shows of the Franconi family. The aristocracy who attended their performances revisited in their homes the circus scenes printed on china from prestigious factories like Creil et Montereau. The plates owned by the Foundation illustrate great performers of the time like the horsewoman Léjears, the clown Auriol, the elephant Baba or the deer Coco.